Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Digital drawing: a portrait of my muse

Digital art is not here to replace traditional art, but to give artists new ways for creative expression. 

Taken away by these reflections, I felt like picking up a digital pen and celebrating the extraordinary opportunity my consciousness was given to: to be alive here and now. 

The beautiful inspiration led me to creating a portrait of my wife muse and helped me to enjoy every moment I spent on it.

digital drawing girl portrait illustration

Friday, May 13, 2016

Pancake Love

Today I finished a watercolor illustration of pancakes I had started working on earlier this week.

I didn't think of giving this artwork a title. But, while posting the illustration progress on Instagram, I stumbled upon #foodporn with absolutely delightful mouth-watering food photography. I looked again at my painting - the two delicious pancakes now seemed like making out. There I had my subject giving the perfect title to itself. So I let it have it.

Pancake Love, 15 cm x 20 cm, watercolor

food illustration in watercolor

food illustration process

pancakes and kiwi watercolor food illustration

I enjoy watching other artists' behind the scenes and illustration process. This is something I hardly ever did myself. Hopefully - thanks to this blog - it is going to change soon.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

A memory of a memory

It's Thursday, and for today's #tbt I would like to share a piece from a different era.

When I was a kid I loved watching TV.

Sunday noons had the best cartoons, while the best movies always aired late, at around 10 PM, and we had to beg our parents to allow us to stay up and watch Terminator or Rambo. 

Needless to say, parents were never afraid that Tom & Jerry's dynamite pranks or Die Hard's "Yippee ki-yay, motherfucker!" would make us cursing blood-lusting monsters.

That magic box was everything a young boy could ask for: connect a VHS player and you had a movie theater, plug in a video game console and you had your own amusement arcade.

On weekends we rented VHS tapes or borrowed them from friends. Sometimes we had to make a hard decision and over-record one of the cassettes from the home library with a new blockbuster. And the most annoying, completely unacceptable thing in the world was -- to get your tape back and find out it hasn't been rewound (no wonder video rental shops charged fees for that).

A VHS tape, by the way, was an excellent present. I remember one birthday every one of my friends gave me a tape. A pile of fresh, sealed cassettes felt and - yes! - smelled exciting, although it was also the time I decided to never go mainstream with my gift ideas. 

A special place in my heart is held by those late evenings, when after a busy day at work/school the whole family gathered before the box and enjoyed a film together. 

Some movies and shows were aired every single year, especially during winter holidays. Generations of families have developed special bonds with those actors and characters whom they warmly invited into their homes every season.

One of them was a famous Soviet comedian and circus clown Yuri Nikulin (Russian: Юрий Никулин). He starred in timeless classic movies, such as Operation Y and Shurik's Other Adventures (Russian: Операция "Ы" и другие приключения Шурика, 1965) and The Diamond Arm (Russian: Бриллиантовая рука, 1969), which will always remind me of Christmas and New Year's Eve. 

In my first year at university, when visiting my family home, I got a little bit nostalgic. Instead of fighting that feeling, I decided to pour it onto the canvas (a few canvases, to be exact).

Yuri Nikulin oil painting | Юрий Никулин картина маслом

Portrait of Yuri Nikulin  |  50 x 60 cm, oil and spray paint on canvas
Юрий Никулин - портрет |  50 x 60 см, масло и аэрозоль на холсте  

At that time I was deeply influenced by pop art and street art. I was intrigued by an idea of deconstructing colors, mixing media, styles and techniques. That was mostly the reason to marry oil paint (read: fine, classic, timeless) with paint spray (read: modern, industrial, mass-produced). 

The comedian Yuri Nikulin has made people laugh for decades, so it was important to me to find a photo of him with a big happy smile on his face. The circus-inspired background was to represent his career as a clown, and the fact that Moscow Circus on Tsvetnoy Boulvard was named after Nukulin.

Yuri Nikulin oil painting | Юрий Никулин картина маслом

I remember working on that artwork like it was yesterday: cutting out stencils in the living room of my childhood home, driving to my father's garage on the outskirts of the hometown, waiting till the heater carried the late autumn cold away, spray painting and then going back to finish the piece in the kitchen with a cup of warming tea. 

From today's perspective it is indeed a memory of trying to capture a memory. A dream about a dream.

On the day the paint finally dried (and remember it takes up to 4 weeks for oil paint to dry), my father and I took the Nikulin portrait to a local frame shop. To add a bit of uniqueness and flavor to the tribute painting, I decided to paint the frame blue and make the paint "melt" and "drip off" the painting. 

Sounds easy, doesn't it? Well, there was a catch.

You see, the black color on the painting is spray paint, while those shades of grey are oil. I needed spray paint to create the drips. The problem was -- I only had two cans: black and white. So I had to spray the paint out into caps and mix them up little by little until the colors matched perfectly. Spray paint dries fast, so it took a few tries and a pinch of frustration till I finally nailed it. 

Yuri Nikulin oil painting | Юрий Никулин картина маслом

Strangely enough, I don't watch TV anymore. Matter of fact, I don't even have one at home. 

Times are changing. But I am far from those playing the good ol' "today's kids won't get it" record on repeat. Of course they won't - they will have their own precious memories they will dearly nurture in their hearts for the rest of their days.

The truth is there's never been any romance in TV controlled by the state and corporations, showing you what they want you to see, telling you what they want you to know. But please, the kids of today, don't blame us too hard for being so naive and easily deceived, while chomping the cookies you are fed to make your gadgets "smart" and tell you what you want to hear and not what you need to hear.

In the end it's neither VHS tapes nor big bulky boxes we miss, but our families, friends and those moments we spent together - the moments gently washed by time, out of any troubles, frustration and negativity. 

So remember that whatever keeps you up at night and crushes you down to the ground during the day, will soon become nothing but a memory. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Le petit renard: children's book in French launched

In early March, when Julia and I were publishing Der kleine Fuchs, our children's book in German, we would have never guessed that only a month later the book would be also available in French.

Yet, today we are truly excited to share the news with the parents of the world -- Le petit renard is officially launched, and is available in both print and digital.

Livres pour enfants tous

Special thanks for making it possible go to wonderful Anne Bühler, a professional translator, who kindly offered a helpful hand and translated the book into French.

The print version of the book is 8 x 10 inches, and has 34 pages. Here is a little sneak peek of what's inside:

Le petit renard - Livres pour enfants

Le petit renard - Livres pour enfants

Le petit renard - livres pour les bébés et enfants

Additionally, the printed book includes coloring pages, as well as images you can cut out and make storytelling more entertaining and interactive. For obvious reasons, these extras are not included in the ebook. However, you still can get them by singing up to the newsletter:

Le petit renards - S'abonner à la newsletter

Le petit renard is a touching story about kindness and friendship, which teaches little readers and listeners how wonderful it is to have friends and how important it is to help them in difficult life situations.

So if you are looking for a book, which will contribute to the development of social competence in your child, and at the same time help him or her to learn French, we encourage you to reach out for your own copy of Le petit renard.

Our children's book is also available in German, Russian and - soon - English.

Feel free to drop us a line, share your thoughts and ask any questions.

children's book ad poster

Friday, April 8, 2016

Kindle Select: is it worth it?

free ebook ad banner for children's book on Kindle

If you've ever published a title on Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing, you know what KDP Select is. For those of you who hasn't - it is a deal the platform offers to publishers, which basically states that if a publisher agrees to sell a book exclusively on KDP for a renewable period of 90 days, he or she will get 70% royalties (instead of the basic 35% rate). 

The lowest price the book can be listed at on Select is $2.99. Additionally, the publisher is charged for 'delivering' the ebook to the reader. This cost is calculated by the size of the file. It doesn't seem to be a problem, when publishing a text-based novel. Children's books, however, are mostly images, so very often publishers do their best to cut costs by lowering quality of images. Sometimes they find the sweet spot, and sometimes you might find a book that will look sweet only on an iWatch. 

Having a book enrolled in KDP Select, you have two options for a promotion (once per an enrollment period of 90 days): Kindle Countdown Deal, which is a price discount, and Free Book Promotion, which is a free ebook giveaway for up to 5 days. 

I've read a couple of opinions on FBP as a marketing tool. Some authors claim they had a huge success with it. Others say it didn't change a thing. At all. 

While I do believe that having a book for free on Amazon can boost sales for some authors, personally, I am far from falling for the hype that FBP or any other miraculous marketing tool, trick or tip will make your book an over-night bestseller. And I think neither should you (ever wondered why the most successful books are books on how to be successful? exactly!). 

That's my 2 cents - a little rant after seeing all those annoyingly enthusiastic salesmen promising to tell you the Illuminati's best-kept secret. Only for $99.99. 

So, should you enroll your book into Kindle Select

My answer is -- of course! If you are an aspiring author and this is your first, second gig, you literally have nothing to lose, yet something positive to gain, whether it's experience in managing your first promo, getting feedback from people other than your moms and pops, or - who knows - maybe lots of sales afterwards? You need to try it out to be sure if it's right for you. 

At this moment, Julie and I have two children's books enrolled in the program, ''Der Kleine Fuchs'' and ''Лиска Ириска'' (which are actually the same book in German and Russian).

Der Kleine Fuchs bilderbuch kindle Лиска Ириска электронная книга для детей

With all the time and effort put into creating ''Der Kleine Fuchs'', it was really important to us to share the book with others and have them experience it. FBP seemed to be a good opportunity to do so. 

The book will be available for a free download until April 11. Feel free to get your copy by clicking here

As for our plans for these two titles, we've decided not to renew their enrollment in KDP Select once the current terms end in early June. 

After a little research, it appears that there's not that much of active engagement in the German children's ebooks section of Kindle. Obviously, it is not non-existent, but neither it is anything even close to titles in English. And the Russian book? Well, it turns out KDP doesn't support Russian. It used to. Not anymore. Although you can easily find titles marked as 'Russian edition', and the Russian literature section is quite rich, you can not properly add a new book into the catalog, which - yes - still allows the book to be found, but makes it much harder to be discovered. Not to mention there's still no Amazon Russia, Amazon Belarus or Amazon Ukraine.

Therefore, when the current Select's enrollment period expires, we are going to expend our list of distributors to other major stores, such as Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Kobo and Germany's Tolino, just like we did with our new children's book, "I Learn Fruits". 

If you are willing to learn more about this indie publishing journey, stay tuned for new updates. 


''Der Kleine Fuchs'' got to nr 1 in Kindle's Top 100 Free among German Children's eBooks. Gotta enjoy small victories. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Ich lerne Obst - bilingual children's book in German and English

About a week ago, Julie and I launched our new children's book titled ''I Learn Fruits''

Crafted with love and attention to detail, this colorful picture book with hand-drawn illustrations is meant to help you to introduce your child to an amazing world of delicious fruits from around the world, and a healthy diet and lifestyle in general.

Naturally, we would like our books to be enjoyed by as many people as possible, and not limit our reach to English-speaking parents only. And being multilingual ourselves, we wanted to make ''I Learn Fruits'' available in other languages, just like we did with our previous title, ''Der Kleine Fuchs'', a cute story about sharing and making friends. 

However, instead of simply translating it, we decided to turn ''I Learn Fruits'' into a bilingual book in German and English.This is how - as we believe - a lot more people will benefit from it: not only German-speaking parents, who would like their child to learn English, but also English-speakers, who want to raise a bilingual child. 

And so, ''Ich lerne Obst'' was born and is now available via all main e-book distributors.

Ich Lerne Obst cover art bilingual children's book fruits

The content of the book hasn't changed from the original English version. ''Ich lerne Obst'' has colorful illustrated pages with 33 kinds of fruit and a quiz to see if your child can remember all the fruit names from the book.

drawing for bilingual children's book

pineapple drawing picture book about fruits

strawberry illustration bilderbuch kinder
drawing of a mandarin, papaya, persimmon, gooseberry and lychee
We hope both you and your child are going to enjoy our book. Feel free to drop us a line to say 'Hi' and to share you thoughts.

children's book cover artbilderbuch available on amazon poster